Devices donated by Heart Hospital of Austin could save lives


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN GUSKY

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on November 26, 2012 at 7:25 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 26 at 7:40 PM

AUSTIN -- The Zach Theater and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are among the 11 community organizations that have received a potentially life-saving gift from Heart Hospital of Austin. Sudden cardiac arrest claims nearly 400,000 lives each year. Doctors at the Heart Hospital of Austin are hoping that by giving these organizations Automated External Defibrillator's, or AEDs, the survival rate will dramatically improve.

As visitors to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center took in the beauty all around them Monday, the natural ambiance was suddenly disturbed.

"Tear open package and remove pads," was heard throughout the lobby.  

The calm but forceful voice doesn't belong to a center staffer, but something that is now front and center in the main lobby. It's an Automated External Defibrillator or AED. The donation is part of a Heart Hospital of Austin program designed to curb the fatality rate associated with cardiac arrest.

"If you don't treat the patient within the first 10 minutes or so, then death rate is about 95 percent," said Stanley Wang, M.D., a cardiologist with Heart Hospital of Austin. "On the other hand, if you can get them to a defibrillator within the first minute, you turn that 95 percent death rate around to 95 percent survival rate."  

Wang says every minute of delay lessens that survival rate by 10 percent, so time is of the essence.

"We have 279 acres here," said Susan Rieff, the executive director for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Rieff says the AEDs are tremendously important because of the demographics and the sheer volume of visitors to the center.

"We can have as many as 2,000 to 3,000 people on the site at the same time," she said. "All of our staff has taken CPR training and first aid training, but this gives us another level of security. In the event of a health crisis, if someone experiences a heart attack or something like that, then we will be better prepared to deal with that."

Wildflower Center visitors KVUE spoke to say having an AED on-site and not having to wait for an ambulance to arrive makes for a more enjoyable experience.

"Traveling into here, I noticed that it's kind of out of the way," said Cora Mae Thompson, who was visiting from Atlanta. "If something would happen, like to myself, it would be more comforting knowing something was on the spot to try to take care of me."  

"If you do have an emergency it will be a little bit faster to actually respond rather than having to wait for everything else to happen in that kind of order," said Cedar Park resident Natalie Hernandez.

The AEDs cost about $2,500 each. Doctors with Heart Hospital of Austin say there's even more value in the training that comes with it. For three years, staff members will be trained on how to use the devices and how to recognize the symptoms of cardiac arrest.

The following organizations have been selected to receive the AEDs and training:
    - Anderson Mill Baptist Church
    - Austin Children's Shelter
    - The Austin Stone Community Church
    - Capital CDC
    - Center for Child Protection
    - Great Hills Baptist Church
    - Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin
    - The Junior League of Austin
    - Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
    - The University of Texas at Austin
    - Our Lady's Maronite Catholic Church
    - ZACH Theatre
Those organizations were selected through an application review process based on the average number of people within each organization, the organizations' plan to extend life-saving knowledge to others within the organization, their proximity to Heart Hospital of Austin and their overall mission, among other criteria.

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